Lockdown takes significant mental health toll

NEARLY a fifth of people reported having thoughts of self-harm or suicide during the first month of lockdown but less than half of those received mental health support, according to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) surveyed 44,000 people between 21 March and 20 April and found that 8,000 (18 per cent) reported thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Five per cent of those (2,174 people) deliberately harmed themselves at least once since the start of the UK’s lockdown.

Only 42 per cent of those thinking about self-harming or suicide and 57 per cent of people who self-harmed accessed mental health services.

The researchers analysed data from the UCL COVID-19 Social Study on the psychological and social experiences of adults in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants in the study completed online questionnaires on a weekly basis.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "The pandemic has had a serious negative impact on mental health. We are concerned by the number of people who were not able to get support during lockdown. This could lead to a deterioration in people’s mental health and an increase in demand for services.

"To meet this anticipated demand we need to see urgent action from the government to deliver significant and sustained investment. Without it, services will struggle to cope and we will continue to see many people with mental illness unable to access the help they need."

Link: Abuse, self-harm and suicidal ideation in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic